“It’s not you, it’s not me, it’s all of us” – Why CO2-emissions are still enormous, even in a world of lockdown

Timely Insight #7

The effects of COVID-19 lockdowns on air pollution and CO2-emissions has become a popular point of reference (including some of our previous Timely Insights). With a historical 5.5 percent projected drop in global emissions for 2020, the lockdowns have, in its own distasteful way, demonstrated that emissions cuts are possible. In this Timely Insight for Climate Action, we draw on a flipped perspective to ask: How is it that, even in a global economic standstill, we are still projected to emit dangerous levels equivalent to 94.5% of what the year 2020 could have looked like without the global pandemic? If all this – empty airports, vacant roads, and closed stores – can not provoke the 7.6 percent cuts that are necessary already this year (next year, it’s another 7.6 percent, and on it goes) to keep within the goals of the Paris Agreement, well… what can? 

Wait, what? Even with the global economy at a near-standstill, the best analysis suggests that the world is still on track to release 95 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted in a typical year, continuing to heat up the planet and driving climate change even as we’re stuck at home”

Today, we hand the microphone to Shannon Osaka of grist.org in the article The world is on lockdown. So where are all the carbon emissions coming from? 

Get ready to be pulled out of your own ass, as Shannon point to the broad strokes of structural CO2-emissions, in a humbling perspective of actual emission sources. Plus, you get presented with a plot-twist on why decreasing air pollution is not an immediate fix for a warming planet.

Enjoy this brief and insightful Timely Insight on structural emissions here.

“I think the main issue is that people focus way, way too much on people’s personal footprints, and whether they fly or not, without really dealing with the structural things that really cause carbon dioxide levels to go up,” said Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist and the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

We are eager to inspire dialogue on how to support the climate change story to shift from individual footprints to a more structural view. What do you believe is needed to successfully shift our focal point?

Feel free to contribute in the comments section below. We believe that also in this case context matters a great deal – we encourage replies from the perspective of your own local context.

Why do we share this article?

We find that the current emissions are still surprisingly high when examining the staggering effects of corona lockdowns. The article, which makes for this Timely Insight, offers a view that considers the systemic drivers of CO2-emissions. As an agency for climate transformation, we believe change – of people, businesses, or societies – can only be achieved by understanding and working with the structures that define them. This is why we help engage critical stakeholders to support our clients in their transformative journey. To learn more, please get in touch.

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Timely Insights in an interconnected world

Timely Insights for Climate Action digs into current developments to illuminate an interconnected world.

A global pandemic with severe impacts on people’s lives in most places, says a lot about the times we live in. Join us from your self-quarantine in exploring timely insights from COVID-19 outbreak and beyond, and what it means for climate action.

We’re compiling existing articles to discuss and highlight how they help us understand the ways in which the world is connected. In these days of social distancing, we aim to support ourselves and readers in leveraging the learnings from what’s unfolding right now, to be better suited for catalyzing climate action.

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